Panthers Refuse to Give Up Seat


Emma Stapleton

The Panthers took a knee to receive the Rocking Chair Classic Trophy (depicted above on the right) as the reward for winning their annual “rivalry game” over Hamilton. Middlebury won 41–20, although not even that score was indicitive of how big the blowout was. The Panthers led 41–0 at the half, and many non-senior starters watched the second half from the sidelines.


On the last home game of the season and final home contest for the Class of 2018, the football team routed Hamilton 41–20 after scoring the game’s first 41 points on Saturday, Nov. 4. Middlebury kept hold of the “rocking chair” by defeating the Continentals for the 22nd-straight time in the rivalry.

Hamilton deferred the toss, deciding to kick it off to a dangerous Jimmy Martinez ’19, who returned the ball 21 yards to the Middlebury 31-yard line. Two plays later, Jake Meservy ’19, who took over the offensive reins after a season ending knee injury to starting quarterback Jared Lebowitz, connected with Martinez on a 65-yard bomb. Carter Massengill ’20 completed the extra point and the hosts were off to a 7–0 lead, 45 seconds into the contest.

Three plays later, on Hamilton’s first possession, Kevin Maxwell ’19 forced a fumble, which Middlebury’s John Jackson ’18 recovered on Hamilton’s 37-yard line. On the ensuing play, Peter Scibilia ’21 rushed 15 yards out of bounds to the Hamilton 22, which set up a fantastic look for Meservy. He once again connected with Martinez for the duo’s second touchdown. Massengill completed the kick and Middlebury led 14–0 fewer than 2 minutes into the contest.

The Continentals attempted to move the chains on their next drive, but they failed. After a Hamilton punt, Middlebury started the drive on its own 16-yard line and marched to the Hamilton 31, aided by a Continental offside penalty. From there, Meservy threw his only interception of the game, but Hamilton could not capitalize on them mishap and punted again.

The punt travelled to the Hamilton 45 , and Kevin Hopsicker ’18 returned it twelve yards, setting Middlebury up in excellent field position.

Meservy rushed for 13 yards and the offense tacked on 15 more thanks to a Hamilton pass interference penalty, placing the Panthers at the Hamilton four-yard line. Dropping back in the pocket, Merservy found Scibilia for a four-yard reception and his third touchdown pass of the afternoon. Massengill missed the extra point, but the hosts held a 20–0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the two teams struggled for field position, with neither team mustering anything more than a punt for the first five minutes. At the eight-minute mark, however, Middlebury’s defense turned it up a notch. Hamilton quarterback Sam Foley tried to rush for one yard on a fourth-and-one play, but was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Before he was downed, Maxwell forced his second fumble of the game. Wesley Becton ’18 recovered the ball at the Hamilton 45-yard line and took it all the way to the house to give Middlebury a 27–0 lead.

On the ensuing Hamilton drive, Foley was sacked for a four-yard loss by Jackson. On the play, Foley fumbled, which was recovered by Aaron Slodowitz ’18. At the opposing 26-yard line, the Panthers were pushed back 10 yards thanks to a holding penalty. Meservy took the penalty in stride, answering with a 36-yard pass to Frank Cosolito ’20 for his sixth career touchdown and Merservy’s fourth and final of the day.

“Personally, the Hamilton game was a huge confidence boost for me, especially after getting my first start the previous week against one of the best teams in this conference,” said Meservy, who left the game after Middlebury took a 34–0 lead. “It was a really awesome feeling to see Jimmy [Martinez] make a perfect catch and then run down into the end zone to celebrate. Ever since the loss to Trinity, we’ve been eager to make a statement — the Hamilton game gave us that opportunity. I think that the first touchdown coming on the second play of the game helped us get ahead and stay head.”

After throwing the fourth touchdown, I was just so happy that I was able to help send the seniors out with a win on Senior Day; especially guys like Dan, Kasirye, and Lebowitz, who would’ve given anything to be able to play on Saturday.”

Hamilton could not get on the board the entire first half and they struggled to compete with the Panthers’ offense. With a minute and fifty seconds left in the first half, Will Jernigan ’21 went under center for a shot at the Continentals’ struggling defense. Starting at their own 33-yard line, Jernigan completed an 11-yard pass to Tanner Contois ’18 and a 30-yard pass to Martinez giving the Panthers position at the Hamilton 17. After completing a pass to Conrado Banky ’19 for 12 yards to get to the Hamilton five-yard line, the Panthers called a timeout. And with seven seconds left in the half, the Jernigan found Banky again from five yards out, giving the hosts a 41-0 lead and their final touchdown.

Hamilton managed to score three times in the fourth quarter. Their first touchdown came on a four-play, 69-yard possession, but they missed the extra point. They scored again five minutes later on a 6 play, 66-yard possession. Hamilton tried to go for the two-point conversion, but their attempt failed and the hosts maintained a 41–12 lead. The Continental’s final score came around the two-minute mark. Starting at the Middlebury 22-yard line, after a 30-yard punt return, Foley completed a pass 16 yards and a subsequent six-yard pass to Joe Schmidt. Foley completed the two-yard conversion and the final score of the game concluded with a Middlebury win, 41–20.

Meservy finished with 212 yards on 11-16 pass attempts and four touchdowns, while Jernigan went 4–6 for 58 yards. Martinez caught three passes for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jackson had a fulfilling day on defense, finishing with nine tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack. Becton finished closely behind Jackson with seven tackles, an interception and a touchdown after a recovered fumble.

The Panthers close out their season on Saturday, November 11th against Tufts (5–3). With a win, Middlebury would end the season 7–2. If Amherst loses to Williams and Trinity loses to Wesleyan, Middlebury, Amherst, Trinity and Wesleyan would all earn a share of the Nescac championship with records of 7–2. The last time there was a tie for the Nescac championship was 2013 when Amherst, Middlebury and Wesleyan tied for the crown.